UMaine baseball busy with fall ball; Bears play USM on Saturday

Posted Sept. 14, 2011, at 7:04 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 14, 2011, at 9:32 p.m.

The University of Maine baseball team, still basking in the glow of its America East championship, is well into its 45-day fall season.

Coach Steve Trimper’s ballclub, which is slated to wrap up fall ball on Oct. 16, is gearing up for back-to-back weekends of outside competition.

The Black Bears travel Saturday to The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, where they will square off against the University of Southern Maine of Gorham for 18 innings of baseball beginning at 1 p.m.

Saturday also will serve as UMaine’s “Scout Day” for 2011. Trimper said approximately 20 major league scouts are expected to be in attendance.

The event, which starts at 11 a.m., is a combine during which UMaine players will work out at the plate, in the field and on the mound to show off their abilities to scouts.

“It’s called a pro-style workout,” Trimper explained. “The kids run the 60 and take batting practice, work at their positions.”

Trimper explained junior pitchers Jeff Gibbs and Steve Perakslis, both of whom played in the Cape Cod Baseball League this summer, are among the top prospects expected who have drawn the scouts’ attention.

Junior shortstop Mike Fransoso, fifth-year senior first baseman Justin Leisenheimer, and redshirt sophomore utility man Fran Whitten are also draft-eligible.

Fransoso is working out lightly as he attempts to rest and rehabilitiate his sore hips, including one that required surgery last January.

“He’s hitting, he’s taking minimal ground balls and he’s doing throwing stuff,” Trimper said. “He’s been DH’ing in the intrasquads but he’s not going to play in any of the outside (competition) games coming up.”

On Saturday, Sept. 24, the Bears will be playing at Mahaney Diamond in Orono. They’ll face the Academy of Baseball Canada, an ages 18-and-under developmental team from Quebec.

The international games are exempted by the NCAA, while the USM game counts toward UMaine’s maximum of 56 for 2011-12.

Trimper said his players are exhibition plenty of enthusiasm, even though the season is several months away.

“The aura around the team right now is, we have to better last year’s season,” he said. “It’s early and so the motivation is high. We have to continue to do that, but they’re certainly ready to try to duplicate what we did last year and one-up it.”

During the final week or two of the fall season, the Bears will conduct the annual Blue-White World Series, an intrasquad competition for bragging rights.

Trimper welcomes fans to attend not only the games, but any UMaine practice session.

<span class=”Sports_10tb”>Newcomers turning heads</span>

The Bears did not suffer huge graduation losses in 2011, but still may be counting on some young players to fill key roles.

Among the newcomers who have impressed early are outfielders Sam Balzano of Portland and Brian Doran from Canada.

“Balzano, the kid from Deering, has been phenomenal. He’s ahead of where I thought he’d be coming in here,” Trimper said. “That also goes for Brian Doran.”

Trimper called them “burners” because of their speed and praised their defensive abilities.

Pitcher Manny Pupo from Florida and infielder/pitcher Luke Morrill of Rockland also have started off well.

Manny Pupo, he’s 89-92 mph,” Trimper said. “He’s been doing really well for us.

”Morrill, he’s been really impressing us, too,” he added. “We’re trying to find a good spot for him.”

<span class=”Sports_10tb”>Fantasy Camp begins Sept. 30</span>

Baseball players who are a little bit past their prime but would like to again have some fun are invited to the UMaine Baseball Fantasy Camp.

The event is scheduled Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at Mahaney Diamond in Orono, where Trimper said participants will have the chance to get a feel for the UMaine baseball experience.

“Last year we had over 30 participants, who had a great time,” Trimper said. “We’re shooting for 40.”

Participants will arrive on the 30th and go through a batting practice/fielding workout starting at 3 p.m. Out of that, the talent pool will be divided up into teams of 12 players.

The teams will play a round robin tournament on Saturday, with a championship game slated for Sunday morning.

Participants receive a UMaine jersey, a hat and all meals. The cost is $200 per person, with proceeds to benefit Black Bear baseball.

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bob Stanley was among the special guests last year. Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Jon Warden is slated to return, providing his mix of baseball experience and humor to the fantasy camp experience.

For more information on the event, contact Trimper at 581-1090 or via email at stephen.trimper@umit.maine.edu.

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